The People on the Bus Go Up and Down

by Nancy Bestor

img_4491When traveling overseas last month, Bob and I flew on Alaska Airlines out of Medford, Oregon, to San Francisco—via Portland, Oregon—to catch our Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul. San Francisco was apparently having some significant weather delays, so our flight out of Portland was delayed, and delayed, and then delayed again. Finally, we were told that our plane would take off shortly, but not to SFO as ticketed. Instead we would fly to San Jose, and then be bused about 45 minutes to SFO. We originally had a six hour layover in San Francisco, and thank goodness we booked it that way, as we ended up getting to San Francisco with just enough time to grab a quick snack and board our Turkish Airlines flight.

The flight to San Jose went just as planned, but the busing, well, let’s just say that left something to be desired. The Alaska gate agents had an extremely difficult time communicating with the bus company in charge of picking up the Alaska passengers and getting them to SFO. We were told the buses would leave San Jose within 20 minutes of our deplaning, but it took the two buses over an hour to get to our waiting point. We could, however, see the buses from where we were waiting, but they (for some strange reason) could not get to us. They kept driving around and around on the wrong access way. Needless to say, many passengers got a little angry. Anyone who had a tight connection in San Francisco was out of luck. For that matter, even those with a generous connection time (2-3 hours) were out of luck. Passengers unfortunately started taking their anger out on the Alaska gate agents, who were trying as best as they could to get the buses to come to the right spot. But the buses continued to drive by us, just slightly, and ridiculously, out of reach.

Finally the buses arrived and we made our way to SFO. Bob and I were fortunate enough to be sitting in front of a three year old girl who sang “The Wheels On the Bus” almost the entire time. Frankly, it was refreshing to hear this little girl happily singing after watching too many adults throw temper tantrums. Because apparently, it’s not just babies on the bus who go “whaa, whaa, whaa.”

Delays happen. We don’t have to be happy about it, but we also don’t need to take out our wrath on other humans. We’re all just doing the best we can.

Let’s Go To The Movies

by Nancy Bestor

img_0078On a recent rainy weekend in Portland, Bob, Emily and I spent a late afternoon in one of the Rose City’s many independent movie theaters, enjoying the new Beatles documentary Eight Days a Week. The movie, along with original footage of their complete 1965 Shea Stadium concert, was excellent, but equally outstanding was the fact that Cinema 21, along with many other movie theaters in and around Portland, serves beer that you can take right on in to the movie with you.

I vividly remember the first time Bob and I went to a movie theater that served beer. It was McMenamin’s Kennedy School in Portland. And not only do they serve beer at this former elementary school turned hotel/restaurant/bar/theater, they also serve pizza and offer couch seating. I was flabbergasted, but in a good way. A visit to the Kennedy School is well worth your while, even if you’re not going to a movie. The fabulous redesign of classrooms and such into a multipurpose establishment, complete with a detention bar, warrants a visit.

On another occasion we saw What We Do in the Shadows—a mockumentary about vampires—at the Hollywood Theater, where they’ve put in high narrow “cocktail tables” between each row, that offer the perfect spot to set your beverage and popcorn.

Perhaps it’s the novelty (for me at least, not for most Portlanders), but if beer is on offer when I’m going to the movies, I can’t really NOT get one. I recognize that beer and movies together might not work for every theater. As a theater owner, f you have to limit your clientele to 21 and over, you lose a significant share of the movie going public. But beer, popcorn, and a movie? As an adult with adult children, this is a movement I can get behind.

For The Love of the Food Cart

by Nancy Bestor

foodcartI’m a huge fan of the food cart. No matter the city or country I am in, if I have the choice between a food cart and a brick and mortar restaurant, the food cart wins most every time. I’m not sure why that is. Maybe my brain sees the food cart as more authentic, maybe cheaper, or maybe the truth is, I just believe food that comes from a food cart tastes better.

Portland, Oregon seems to be ahead of the curve with its plethora of food trucks, and its blogs and books devoted to the food cart scene. Every time I visit the City of Roses, I’m sure to hit the downtown cart pod on Alder and 9th, for chicken and rice at Nong’s Khao Man Gai, or a pork sandwich at The People’s Pig, or maybe even Pad Kee Mao noodles at I Like Thai. I have also sampled cart cuisine in cities throughout the US, and based on my experiences, Washington D.C., San Francisco, New York, Boston, and Los Angeles all have their share of delicious roaming restaurants too.

Our food cart passion also kicks in when we’re abroad. Bob and I drank phenomenal fresh squeezed pomegranate juice in Shanghai, and ate the best stir-fry noodle dish ever on a random street corner at another random cart. In Mexico City, we ate succulently rich deep IMG_0503fried gorditas at a food cart on yet another street corner. The atmosphere certainly isn’t fancy, napkins might be hanging from a cord, and the seating (if there is any) might be plastic kiddie chairs or short wooden stools, but for me, that just makes it better. I’ll never forget on our trip to Thailand more than 12 years ago, we ate every day at a local woman’s food stall on the island of Koh Phi Phi. This was our first experience eating at a food cart in a foreign country. We pointed to the ingredients we wanted her to include, and had to let go of the fact that she had no refrigeration, and her chicken was just sitting in a cupboard under her cook stove.

In the US, within the food services industry, food carts have a bit of a bad rap. Restaurants don’t necessarily like them, as they can take away their business, yet the carts don’t have the overhead that a restaurant has. Although I see their point, I’d like to think food carts and restaurants can find a middle ground, as I believe there are enough customers to go around. And not every diner is willing to stand in line outside and then find somewhere to eat, often also out in the elements.

That can be one of the food cart downsides, especially here in the US. There is rarely a set eating area, so you often have to find a bench, or a patch of ground, or in some cases sit in your car and eat. But how bad can it be to have the wonderful aroma of say, Tom Yum Soup, filling your car for a short while?

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Deep-fried gorditas in Mexico City – YUM!

Food carts are often the first place budding restaurateurs try out new menu ideas. Los Angeles chef Roy Choi put his toe in the water with his Kogi Barbecue Taco trucks before going brick and mortar. The Grilled Cheese Grill in Portland might do the same, with inventive specialty sandwiches like Grilled Jalapeños, Colby Jack, Cream Cheese, and Corn Tortilla Chips on Sourdough. (I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely feeling a bit peckish right now.)

Maybe in the end, the truth is that I love food carts because I think they are hip. And I’m always looking for an excuse to convince myself that I am as “with it” as my college and high school aged daughters are, and eating at cool food trucks helps me feel like I am on the cutting edge of the food scene. (I am right?)